Sunday, November 23, 2014


Prior dwanjabi events:
June 20-24 The Bounce Twain, CA
June 28-30 Kate Wolf Memorial Music Festival Laytonville, CA
July 4-7 High Sierra Music Festival Quincy, CA
July 11-15 Lightning in a Bottle Temecula, CA
July 26-28 What the Festival?! White River Canyon, OR
August 2-4 String Cheese Incident @Horning's Hideout North Plains, OR
August 9-11 Jamballah NW Portland, OR
September 19-23 Symbiosis Gathering Oakdale, CA
May 4 - 5 dwanjabi 2012 collection PREVIEW TRUNK SHOW! Portland, OR
May 11-13 Shakti Fest Joshua Tree, CA
May 17-21 Symbiosis Gathering Pyramid Eclipse Pyramid Lake, NV
May 24-28 Lightning in a Bottle Silverado, CA
June 1-4 Raindance Campout Saratoga Springs, CA
June 9 Higher Vision Santa Rosa, CA
June 15-17 The Bounce Belden, CA
June 29 - July 1 Kate Wolf Festival Laytonville, CA
July 5-7 High Sierra Music Festival Quincy, CA
July 20-22 Photosynthesis Neah Bay, WA
July 27-29 What the Festival White River Canyon, OR
August 9-12 Northwest String Summit Horning's Hideout, OR
August 15-19 dwanjabi BURNER open boutique hours! Portland, OR 97213
October 5-6 dwanjabi Autumn in Portland open boutique hours Portland, OR 97213
May 13-15 Joshua Tree Music Festival Joshua Tree, CA
May 27-30 Lightning in a Bottle Irvine, CA
June 3-5 Raindance Saratoga Springs, CA
June 10-12 Harmony Festival Santa Rosa, CA
June 17-19 The Bounce Belden, CA
June 23-26 RE:Generation Horning's Hideout, OR
July 9 Mississippi Ave Street Fair Portland, OR
July 14 & 15 Emrgnsee pre-FUNK trunk show Portland, OR
July 22-25 Northwest String Summit Horning's Hideout, OR
July 29 PDX Bridge Festival Block Party Portland, OR
August 5-7 Gaia Festival Laytonville, CA
August 14 Prepare for the Playa San Francisco, CA
August 21 Beyond the Fence San Francisco, CA
September 2-5 Loveseed Pioneer, CA
September 8-11 Bhakti
Fest Joshua Tree, CASeptember 23-25 Earthdance Vallejo, CA
May 14-16 Joshua Tree Music Festival Joshua Tree, CA
May 27-30 Lightning in a Bottle Irvine, CA
June 4-6 Bobolink Belden, CA
June 11-13 Harmony Santa Rosa, CA
June 18-20 Big Bounce Belden, CA
July 10 Mississippi Ave Street Fair Portland, OR
July 16-18 Emrg+N+See Macleay, OR
July 22-25 Mystic Garden Party Corning, CA
July 29 - August 1 Wanderlust Squaw Valley, CA
August 6-8 Summer Meltdown Darrington, WA
August 15 Hawthorne Street Fair Portland, OR
August 21 Alberta Street Fair Portland, OR
September 9-12 Bhakti Fest Joshua Tree, CA
September 24-26 Raw Spirit Festival Prescott, AZ
May 29-31 Bobolink northern California
June 11 4pm- 10pm Portland Summer Preview Trunk Show ! Portland, OR
June 19-21 Big Bounce northern California
July 11 Mississippi Street Fair Portland, OR
July 17-19 Emrg+N+See Macleay, Oregon
July 23-26 Mystic Garden Party Ashland, OR
July 31-August 2 Oracle Gatherings: The Fountain Randle, WA
August 7-9 Eros Fest NW Portland, OR
Aug 14-16 Beloved Tidewater, OR
September 12 Belmont Street Fair Portland, OR
Sept. 17-21 Symbiosis Gathering Yosemite, CA
May 17 Alberta Art Hop Portland, OR
May 22 – 25 Bobolink Belden, CA
May 30 & 31 Summer Circus Selma, OR
June 13 – 15 Stilldream Northern California
June 19 - 21 Sonic Bloom Winter Park, Colorado
July 12th Mississippi Ave Street Fair Portland, OR
July 18 – 20 Emrg+N+See east of Salem, OR
July 25 & 26 4 Peaks Bend, OR
August 1 – 3 Pickathon Portland, OR
August 7 - 10 Summer Meltdown Darrington, WA
August 15 - 17 Beloved Oregon Coast
September 6 Belmont Street Fair Portland, OR
September 27 HandmadeNW presents: Summer’s Last Rockin’ Outdoor Fest! Portland, OR
December 13 Flock Together: A Holiday Affair Portland, OR
Thanksgiving-Christmas Skidmore Market Portland, OR
May 18-25 Village Building Convergence Portland, OR
June 1 East:Meets:West Portland, OR
June 15 -17 Emerg+N+See near Salem, OR
June 23 & 24 dwanjabi solstice gathering Portland, OR
July 20 - 22 Island Festival Whidbey Island, WA
August 2 - 5 4 Peaks Bend, OR
August 10 -12 NW World Reggae outside of Eugene, OR
August 23 - 26 NW String Summit North Plains, OR
September 8 Belmont Street Fair Portland, OR
September 14 - 16 Earthdance NW Toutle, WA
September 20 - 23 Symbiosis Gathering Angels Camp, CA
November 10 & 11 dwanjabi trunk show Portland, OR
November 20 & 27, December 4 Portland Urban Artist and Designers Affair Portland, OR

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Portland Summer Preview Trunk Show !

This Thursday, June 11th, 2009 from 4pm until 10pm you are invited to a

Portland Summer Preview Trunk Show

a gathering with music, wine & light nibbles
featuring a preview of the newest Summer 2009 fashions, accessories, jewelry, trinkets well as henna designs and the healing touch of massage
all for you and every body

The Benu House
1218 SE Ash Street
Portland, OR

Thursday, June 11, 2009 4pm - 10pm


dwan presents her new line of fun styles in clothing for 2009 including leather. In addition, new this year, dwan is the rep for 4 other international design labels based in the artist community of Arambol in Goa, India.


Fresh styles for men and sophisticated fashions for women come to the US west coast exclusively with dwanjabi. Created by international designer Ori, Aspire has already set trends overseas and now on our home shores starting with Bobolink Festival in Northern California.
In addition to the Aspire clothing line, Ori presents his one of a kind line of hand made and riveted belts and wrist cuffs.

Ofir & Lena

Two different designers with totally different styles...but with one thing in common:
Each piece is one of a kind. Don't miss out on the individualistic creativity of each item featuring artistic stitching and patching of various fabrics, threads and leathers. Keep your eye out for the hot remaining stock of vests with attitude, skirts with layers of beautiful variety, tricked out marching band style tops and high collared tops with individual details.

Free Spirit

Any bohemian traveler of the Indian subcontinent will easily recognize the craze of sexy & casual fashions created by the ladies of Free Spirit. For the past several years, Nath & Yael have transformed the Goa fashion genres to evolve into what is the essence of Free Spirit. Many have copied but none can capture the styles that are brought back to you by dwanjabi.

Starbird Couture by Narayani

Starbird Couture accessories and jewelry step from the runway to the streets in seamless grace. Narayani infuses fine organic elements of feathers, fur, leather, horn, gemstones, silver & gold together with etched gears, vintage treasures & textiles into stunning accessories.
Each piece is hand created with deep intention to reflect the natural beauty of the ele
ments and attention to fine craftsmanship. Discover your favorite earrings, hair pieces, pins, necklaces and hats at Starbird Couture.


Somniative is a maker of things, whose raw materials are culled from places both near and far where the discarded and unused lie, awaiting the sacred return to the realm of human caring and love in celebration of life, beautfy, freedom and joy.
It is thru the merger of these materials and the majik they endure that trifling pieces of finery are created.
may these bring you joy...


Salvaged treasures from a forgotten world...

Original and unique necklaces and other wearables that are made from 100% recycled tidbits and made for you with love: Treigh Love

Blue Lotus Henna

Melanie of Blue Lotus Henna is one of Portland's leading henna artists. Her skills cover traditional, modern and custom designs. Sample her body art at a discounted rate...specially priced just for this trunk show!

Therapeutic Touch Massage by Rose Woodfinch

Rose will be offering a sampling of her skills in a sanctuary upstairs from the action for those seeking a relaxing respite to cap off the day's demanding schedule. Trained in deep tissue, trigger point work, reiki and Swedish massage and utilizing her 6 years of experience, Rose applies her aptitudes in a unique and effective way. Massage will be available at $1/minute and provides extended moments of bliss!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


i don't really feel like blogging about amsterdam because i'm on my way back to portland...and my mind is all fixed on just getting stoked to get home. but i'll sum it up

i booked my roundtrip ticket to India last autumn for free with frequent flier miles and noticed my return trip had a layover in Amsterdam. so i decided to turn a few hours into 5 days. i had absolutely no idea that my arrival into amsterdam on April 30th happens to fall on the epic yearly Queen's Day celebration.

I had zero sleep on an overnight 11 hours of flying because one day before my flight from delhi i slipped and fell...bouncing the entire length of a marble staircase on my tailbone. so with a super painful arse i was fidgety as hell for my flight...thank god for aisle seats.
anyway, without any sleep i felt like a true warrior...because i raged it hard for Queen's Day. You cannot be in amsterdam on Queen's Day and not rage it hard. you really have no choice. the entire city is going ape shit. every street is closed to all traffic but pedestrians. Everyone is wearing orange, and of course i had the perfect little ensemble to slip into to fake my dutch nationalistic flair...i even had orange shoes on. i wasn't sure where to go...i just noticed that all streets were filled with orange people walking en masse somewhere. so i didn't ask any questions, i just went out my hostel door and walked with them to see where they were all going. but you see, that's just the point...they aren't going anywhere. it isn't about getting somewhere. it's most deff about the journey. that's the entire idea is to just walk...and all along the way is every kind of party of every kind of genre you can imagine. it was rad.

this was a pretty cool way to kick off my 5 day stay in amsterdam because i got a pretty thorough tour of the city...the problem is that i didn't remember how to get back to any place that i discovered along the way.
i took a tour of the city and then took my own personal tour of the red light district, several times. i find prostitution a very fascinating industry. and it is a no bullshit exposition of it in the red light district. all shapes, colors and sizes on display dancing or bored chillin behind a glowing red window pane. i sorta wondered at one point if it is weird that i walked around looking at each and every prostitute, but then i reminded myself that every other of the hundreds of people walking around were doing the same exact thing. the only difference between me and the men is that i limited myself to only window shopping.

the tourist attraction parts of amsterdam got pretty stale pretty quickly. i spent one day hangin with my Dutch friend Wouter who i befriended last year in Rishikesh and he showed me some super sweet spots that were well off the tourist trail. and he suggested some areas for me to explore in my remaining days in the city. so my final day in amsterdam i wandered into an area that is off the tourist maps and happened coincidentally to enter the vintage designer boutique and art gallery section of amsterdam. just when i thought i was getting bored and 5 days was way more than enough to spend in that city i had hit the jackpot. i nearly cried with joy. Tears both for the discovery and also for breaking my budget as i found two dutch designer skirts that fit me like a glove, and dammit, the boutique accepted credit cards. oh well... I also found an outdoor market that only takes place once a week that specializes in selling rolls of fabric. when i saw that, i paused and looked up the sky and was like "are you kidding me???" So many gifts waiting's just a matter of being open and receiving them.

anyway, i feel like i'm doing a slack job writing this blog.
but i'm in the home stretch to get to portland now.

i'm sooo looking forward to reconnecting with friends, going out for coffee and dancing to my favorite music.
can you imagine? i just spent 4 months without hearing my favorite music (other than what i play on my little travel speakers).
dude. i cannot wait to go bust it

see y'all soon

oh yeah, and here are all my pics from amsterdam!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Thailand Tourism Amusement Park

Every April as I wrap up another season in India I am faced with repeating destinations in northern India since I have already visited what is temperately available at this time of year. Wanting to shake things up a bit with a new spot, I decided to head to a southern Thailand beach for something different. I have been to Thailand before but only to the tribal jungle areas north of Bangkok. Delicious cuisine, clean clear blue ocean water and white sand beaches were waiting for me.

With almost 2 1/2 weeks to spend the duration of my time in India, it appeared pretty much instantly as I arrived that I had made a very very interesting choice.
My entire time in Bangkok, Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan provided for me challenging appearances in my consistent search for authenticity and depth in experience. The Thailand traveler scene was a particular smack in the face to follow up such a gorgeous experience of beauty and depth while in Rishikesh...and other areas of India for that matter. I've thought about how I can sum things up and explain the circumstances in a blog and I have decided to follow the famous old saying of "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all".

All the appearances of my reality in Thailand, while ugly in their manifestation, were blessings for me as I continue to practice the wonderful teachings I received through Great Freedom in both Goa and Rishikesh. The lack of a supportive community and ease of harmony in my tangible preferences were gone in Thailand and so I was able to REALLY put to test all I had learned through Great Freedom.

Whether I am surrounded by beautiful friends in familiar home surroundings
or if I am in a new stimulating place with opportunities of fresh experiences
or if I am in a seedy place surrounded by ugly addicted characters obsessed with a surface meaningless life
or if I am sitting in unmoving traffic for hours
...there is ONE consistency in EVERYTHING
and that is that I am unchangeable in my core self
and this is reliable
so no matter what dynamic appears around me
or whatever strong opinion gets stuck in my mind
I am a sustainable source of love, peace and wisdom within matter where I am and who I am with or not with

I am

Here is what I saw as beautiful during my time in Thailand

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

the India movie

Rishikesh is one of my favorite places in the world.

It offers so many aspects of quality and inspiration that nourish the diversity of what encourages my flowering.

Fresh air, spirituality, roaming affectionate cows, hungry leaping and climbing monkeys, travelers from all corners of the globe, Indian pilgrims visiting the temples, beaches, the clear origin of the Ganga River and amazing chai. As I sat at one of my favorite chai spots along my walking route from Laxman Jhula to Ram Jhula the chai walla asked me what in Rishikesh I shop for more than anywhere else in India and I told him “chai”. It really is so perfect…whether on a stroll or not sure what else to do, I can always stop for a delicious hot chai. At whatever chai walla I sit, in front of me flows by the “India movie”. The cast of characters featured are: bag laden travelers arriving and leaving, the cows butting horns to win the affection of the baba with the extra chapati, the 20 member extended family slowing their pace to a crawl to look wide-eyed at a tall, blue eyed white woman (looking right back at them), and the beggar who smiles and persistently loiters nearby hoping I’ll offer him the opportunity to also enjoy a hot chai for the movie.

Whenever I had a free afternoon I enjoyed more than anything to slowly make the slow wander between Laxman Jhula and Ram Jhula. “Jhula” is the Hindi word for “bridge”. The holy Ganga River flows directly through Rishikesh and on either end is a large bridge. This trip along the path to Ram Jhula was most definitely all about the journey rather than the destination. Actually I never stayed in any place longer than any other place so in a sense the entire destination, rather than what appeared to be a trip to Ram Jhula, was actually the entire wander itself. The calves and cows along the route are so special and sweet. I am inspired by their ability to stay placid and unaffected by all the stimulation whizzing all around them. Spending many hours watching them (they are the star supporting characters in the India movie) I realized there is one part of their body they are unable to reach with their horns or tongue. Yes I found their sweet spot: the neck and back of head. It was so sweet and amazing for such a lifelong city/suburban based gal like me to have constant access to massive cows for giving a loving neck rub…and for them in turn to bow their heads down to lick my calf with returned affection.

My home base, the place where I could ground myself and take a breather from the movie, was my guesthouse. As my 3rd season, I’m a bit of a regular there…and the same goes for several Italians. With endless love for these warm hearted and animated people I respectfully refer to my home as the “mafia guesthouse”. We would sit together, sometimes upwards of 30 people all at once…and only 2-4 people there who do not speak any Italian (including myself)…as they would all vie for center stage in telling some elaborate tale. I came to find that I didn’t necessarily need to know what they were talking about thanks to their theatrical gestures and speaking tones. Slowly, after a few days of sitting with them, I began to speak more and more with my hands and would catch myself speaking to people with my hands in constant motion…even when I was outside in the great outdoors beyond the gate of the mafia guesthouse.

Beyond the Indian culture, the fresh and beautiful nature, the playful animals everywhere and the lively travelers I shared many a chai with, there was a much bigger draw for me to spend over 3 weeks in Rishikesh this season.

Backtracking a bit, I can say that this journey in India this season has diverted to paths I never anticipated I’d take, not to mention even realizing they existed in the first place. I usually enter into every journey with swirling ideas in my fantasy of what lays ahead of me. Of course, I realize that what will actually transpire never is as I expect at the onset. But this season has been profound in introducing to me approaches to life that has brought me clarity and peace while continuing to grow with practice.

The cow in the movie…standing in the middle of the chaotic and busy street…stands unaffected as a jeep (crammed full with 30 Indian pilgrims) lets out a piercingly loud horn blaring inches from the cow’s ear to “encourage” it to move out of the way. Yet the cow doesn’t flinch, other than swatting some flies with the flick of its tail. The heifer, still in the “movie”, amidst chaos and stimulation, fully in the thick of it all yet so peaceful. Wow. Who knew you could learn so much from a cow?

I was introduced to the teachings of Great Freedom during my stay in Arambol back in February. Ever since, I have continued the practice which has intensified my curiosity as I see and feel the benefits. The majority of my time in Rishikesh was spent continuing the teachings of Great Freedom through daily involvement, including various courses. This is the first time in years, if ever, that I have felt so connected to one teaching or practice and immersed myself so fully. Without realizing what I was seeking through my life, while having so many ideas of approaches in life that are authentic and meaningful, I feel like I have found harmony in this teaching unlike any other practice I have ever come across. The affects on me have been heightened awareness, joy, compassion and love for all people. I feel like I have finally found a sustainable and effective way to regulate imbalanced shifts of heightened emotions and drama that prevent me from actualizing my potential.

Ready to take this outward and onward, I’m here in Delhi wrapping up some business for dwanjabi that is completely inspiring…and...I’ll just say it: Fucking cool.
Get ready people, I’ve got some killer fashions for the 2009 season!!

So much love to all…
Resting…loving…clarity…openness…peace & fulfillment to everyone

Photos here:

Great Freedom:

Monday, March 09, 2009

the scenic route

When I drive around Portland I keep my routes fresh and interesting by staying off the major thoroughfares and sticking with the neighborhood streets. Sure it may add an extra 5 or ten minutes to my drive but the character of the various areas of the area make it worth it. Highways and the wide roads that provide higher speed limits do have an allure of convenience. The lack of character on these roads end up not saving much time and taking them isn’t worth an extra 5-10 minutes and a boring ride.

This has been an amazing approach to all the road trips I’ve taken around the USA as well. When my family moved from New Jersey to Texas when I was 12 we went full speed along the interstates of SE USA. It was really boring. However when I began to plan itineraries as an adult I dabbled with the smaller scenic routes and realized that the speed difference is not so big. And the general store smack dab in the middle of nowheresville is much more interesting than the exit 786 rest area.

I wasn’t feeling so stimulated by Pushkar this season.
…At first.
But as my attitude was getting a bit wack I stopped myself and wondered “why?”. And I made a mental list of the things that agitate me or have lost their intriguing touch. I came to realize that I was taking the “highway” approach in forming my opinions. What I mean by this is that the main road of Pushkar, the mostly pedestrian road densely lined with shops of all sorts and several chai shops, was draining me. I’m not shopping this year. Shopping isn’t why I come to India. For many it is, and at one time it was a highlight for me in my travels. But it is no longer a priority for me. So I can point a finger of blame at Pushkar because it is so shopping oriented. But Pushkar being a shopping town is only one aspect of this village.

Realizing this, I began to purposefully avoid walking on this main shopping road as much as I could avoid it. Instead I wandered through the back village streets and alleys…passing the villager homes, children playing, laundry being hung on the line and friendly authentic greetings from locals not trying to sell…me…a thing. Wow. The energy completely shifted. Once I left the main shopping road and spent an additional 5-10 minutes to arrive at my destination…I had a head and heart filled with the images of the sweet sweet Rajasthan village. And what completely blows my mind is that I cannot recall one time while wandering in this area of the town where I walked past any other foreign tourists.

The same thing goes for the lake. Even more than my walks in the alleys of Pushkar I had redirected my itineraries alongside Pushkar Lake on the ghats. All along the main shopping road of Pushkar are ancient archways opening up to the set of stairs leading down to the lake. It is along these ghats where Brahmans travel from around the country to make puja in the holy water of the lake. Can you imagine the difference for me each morning by taking this lakeside route? Walking down the stairs, removing my shoes, slowly sauntering along, making sure not to disturb the hundreds of pigeons feasting on the seeds spread out by the pilgrims, the occasional cow or bull resistant to clear space for me to walk through the tiny doorway leading to the next ghat…

And through it exposed is a burst of many colors of saris on a large group of bathing Indian women… and on I see families praying together, pouring holy water atop each other’s heads, cupping it up to each mouth to drink and finally the afterglow in the form of flower petals spread upon the lake. Each morning after my local cart man’s Rajasthan traditional breakfast of Poha, I descend the ghat and take in the beauty, serenity and openness of the ghats of Pushkar. Here on the lake and off the “highway” I am free of the “Namaste, madam…come look my shop” or the whizzing beeping motorcycles blaring by missing me by only inches.

And again, I barely saw nary a foreign tourist during my daily walks along the ghats. I felt incredulous that I was one of the few foreign visitors that had made the discovery of so many sweet spots. But then I remembered back to my first few visits to Pushkar that the shopping and stimulating distractions of the main road were pretty freaking cool. So putting this all together in my mind, even though I am not compelled by shopping, etc., I can accept it. Plus the attraction of the main shopping road for most of the foreign tourists is great because, what I feel is the most special part of Pushkar is maintained and nearly empty from the scads of foreigners showing up each year.

Every day, several times a day, I sit at various chai shops watching “the movie”, as I call it. …the cows, the dogs, the beggars, the passersby, the monkeys, the motorcycles, the interaction of the local people with each other, with the foreigners, and all the unexpected and quirky offerings India gives. Early in my 2 week stay in Pushkar I noticed a blind young man walking tentatively along the main shopping road…not begging…just making his way. He caught my eye because he appeared so calm and happy…puttering along tapping his stick along his path and maintaining a smile on his face. Then as he got closer to the chai shop where I sat, many of the local shopkeepers gave him a hard time, spinning him around to confuse his sense of direction and taunting him (not sure because they spoke in the local language). I was hard pressed to not get really defensive for him. I wanted to run up and stop them…but I remained patient with the faith in goodness in people and just watched further. The blind young man never lost his smile. In fact, it got bigger…and he sassed them back. It was actually sweet, if you can believe it. In the end he was back on his path and with a bigger grin on his face, shining his light as he walked in the dark.

After a few days I became aware that his tapping trek through the street each morning is routine. Mornings amidst in my own poha breakfast routine I came to expect him to travel by as I sipped my chai. Each day brought the same interaction with these local men and it dawned on me that this is actually a very sweet way they show each other love. This realization was touching for me because, while it is so easy to react to something we think we understand, if we place our reaction on hold and quiet our mind and really SEE… we can see a whole new light on a situation. And if this man can have so much peace and happiness when only seeing what appears as darkness, well…wow. This opens up a whole new perspective on beauty and happiness…

I feel so blessed with my two weeks in Pushkar. I had the best room in the best guesthouse, filled with the best fellow travelers under the amazing champa tree…dropping the occasional champa flower down on the sand aside the 7 large turtles who live there. My regular compadres were three sweet Maltese and the rest of the folks in my guesthouse like one large family…spending what ended up hours watching the slow motion lives of the family of turtles and marveling at even the most basic activities like walking, yawning, eating and shitting. It’s a big day at Shiva guesthouse when one of them does something as fantastic as blow bubbles from a nostril or lay an egg…

Ahh, a day in the life in Pushkar.


Monday, February 23, 2009

kicked out of the India experience

When I was in the comfy cozy international village of Arambol I felt ambivalent about jumping into the “India experience”. But I trusted myself to be able to do it. And when people asked me where I was going after Arambol and I told them I was going to Ahmedabad the reactions I received affected me. At first the quizzical looks on their faces and the bursts of “WHY?” made me feel nervous and even question myself even though my decision was a sound one. I was compelled to go to this unpopular location for some unknown reason. After a day or two of ambivalence from traveler inquiry of my onward travels I had a shift. I began approaching the subject in a Tom Sawyer-esque way. Suddenly other travelers’ interest in traveling to Ahmedabad was piqued. By adding mystery & allure to a place often associated as a pit of a place no one would ever want to go to, I was able to transcend my apprehension and get pretty psyched. And it not only paid off but Ahmedabad walked my talk.

Ahmedabad was the largest and most developed city in India in pre-British occupation. The British elevated cities like Bombay and New Delhi into their cosmopolitan status of recent years. So what made Ahmedabad so pleasing is that it held its own and had some really nice history. Wandering through the old part of the city was sweet. The people of Ahmedabad are so gentle and friendly. I never once felt harassed like I often do in other locations in India. I was able to stop and chat with local people and there were no other tourists anywhere to be seen. Not only that, I was gastronomically ecstatic. Ahmedabad is the foodie capital of India. I ate at probably the most amazing restaurant I’ve ever been to in my life. The meal is well over my budget but I think it is really a shame to miss out on an occasional splurge while traveling for the sake of the experience. I mean seriously…I was at a beautifully white tiled mosaic seat and table covered with rose petals with classical Indian music playing and a seemingly never ending offering of more courses of traditional Gujarati dishes, all made organically and with locally grown produce brought to me by a wait staff coming from local villages.

I was able to geek out on Gandhi, one of my biggest heroes, by visiting the former Gujarat native’s homestead on the banks of the river. While there I noticed an American consulate program set up with banners, a podium and chairs and wondered what was going on. The next day I read in the paper that Martin Luther King III had visited the same spot just hours after I did!

This season in India I am trying to avoid booking anything in advance so I can be as “in the flow” as possible. So it was only a few hours before I left Ahmedabad I decided to leave on a train without a ticket. You see, it’s totally cool to do that sort of thing in India. You just board a train and when the conductor comes you pay him and he finds you a seat. So anyway I’m sitting there in what ended up being an air conditioned car…and drinks and food starts showing up without any payment asked for. It didn’t occur to me that anything was too odd there…plus I was hungry and I just ripped into my samosa and chai without a care in the world as I let the nearby conversation in Hindi drift into white noise as I gazed out of the tinted window out onto fields filled with buffalos slowly chewing hay. I assumed when the conductor walked away from me with little comment and not asking me for money that there was an unfortunate language barrier and he just assumed I had a ticket and would leave me alone. Some delusional fantasy became my reality and I believed I was going to ride what ended up as being a luxury Rajdhani train for FREE! Sweet!
We arrived to our first stop right on time, one hour after our initial departure. I was so comfortable and happy after my meal and hot chai. And then the conductor came over just as the train slowed to a stop and waved me over to the door and said “you leave now”.
Yep, I got kicked off the train and found myself at some random village in northern Gujarat.

It didn’t bother me much because another train going the same way was coming in 30 minutes…and I was actually enjoying the adventurous curveballs life was throwing me.

The next train showed up and I went into the lowest class available, Class II. If I can describe it in a word to give you an idea of the scene: sardines. Part of the time I was standing and the other time I half leaned on my upright backpack. Everything was a seat for people in this car: the actual seats, the floors, the window sills, other people’s laps, the luggage racks, etc. Anywhere you could put a person, there one was. So the friendly and gentle Gujarati people were there with me up close and personal. Entire families squished together, an elderly man picking his toes up high in the luggage rack, two young boys sexually fondling each other to my left and an old man who lovingly played with his baby granddaughter, shaking her up to make her laugh and turning to me to say “in India, children are god.”

Then, just 30 minutes before my train reached my destination I got the cherry on the cake…an Indian transvestite clad in a beautiful mirrored sari made his way through the car, man by man, extorting money by intimidating each one into giving him-her money by caressing his hair or ultimately sexually fondling the more hesitant and stingy ones. Ultimately though, each man coughed up 5-10 rupees.

Next stop the hill station of Mt Abu in southern Rajasthan.What a gorgeous place! High atop a “mountain” is a lake and an ideal tourist destination for Indians from Ahmedabad, Gujarat and Mumbai. It was pretty cool to see a tourist destination where there were barely any international types like myself. 95% of the people in Mt Abu were Indians. This was perfect in my post Goa plan of getting more into the Indian experience. This past weekend Mt Abu was teeming with more vacationing Indians than usual because it was a three day weekend for the Maha Shivaratri holiday. My noncommittal reply to my guesthouse manager about how long I’d stay ended up biting me in the ass. Getting ready to settle in to my 2nd night there my hotel room phone rang and the manager told me I had to leave the next morning. Yep, now I got kicked out of my hotel room to make room for a high paying upper middle class Indian family.

I was cool with this too. I hadn’t gotten to visit the Dewari Temple but I also wasn’t attached to staying or leaving Mt Abu. And other than getting a nice stroll around Nakki Lake, I was able to experience the super kitschy Spiritual Museum put together by the Brahma Kumaris. Although it was only 5 minutes into the English version of the “Meditation Laser Show Experience” before about 40 Indian came into the theater loudly talking as they waited impatiently to view the Hindi version. So in a sense I was kicked out of that too. But again I was cool with that. 5 minutes of the meditation laser show was enough of an experience for me anyway.

I arrived to Pushkar last night and was pretty sad to see that Pushkar Lake is a puddle surrounded by mountains of dirt and mud being pushed around by a team of loudly churning and banging bulldozers. My first night I was in my favorite hotel here that is butted right up to the lake…er, correction: work area. I decided to stay there anyway. The blaring Shivaratri music carried across the lake throughout the night was no problem at all…I slept right through it. But being awakened at 7am by the banging of the bulldozers I knew immediately I had to change my scenery.

Now I am back at my other favorite place in Pushkar: Shiva Guesthouse, with the cheap room rates, good location, nice travelers and cucumber munching turtles in the courtyard…and my bag is fully unpacked. I am at home.

Mt Abu